A brewing war between McDonald's and Starbucks just heated up. McDonald's—which is already competing with Starbucks by offering espresso and other premium coffee drinks—has announced that it will offer free Wi-Fi starting in mid-January. McDonald's currently charges $2.95 for two hours of Wi-Fi, and by dropping the fee the fast-food chain hopes to encourage customers to linger the way they might at a coffeehouse. Commentators say the move will put pressure on Starbucks, which offers free Wi-Fi to card-holding regulars and AT&T DSL users, but charges others $3.99 for two hours of access. Will free Wi-Fi help McDonald's knock Starbucks off its coffee throne? (Watch a report about McDonald's giving away free wireless Internet)
Sorry, McDonald's will never be a hip place to hang out: "The idea is to hook the nation's loitering youth," says Thomas Ricker in Engadget, and keep them busy posting Facebook updates long enough that they'll buy some more of McDonald's "manufactured food." But it's laughable to think that anywhere but in the remotest backwater will McDonald's ever be "the hippest hangout around."
"McDonald's WiFi will be free like obesity starting January"
Starbucks should be worried: It's a bit of a stretch to imagine McDonald's becoming "a hangout as popular as Starbucks," says Monica Guzman in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But putting free Wi-Fi in 11,000 of McDonald's 14,000 U.S. outlets is a big deal because even Starbucks fans will tell you that "free" — not $3.99 for two hours — is the only competitive price for Wi-Fi in a hangout spot. So look out, Starbucks, "they're coming after you."
"Uh oh, Starbucks: McDonald's will offer free Wi-Fi"
Forget hipsters — this is great news for travelers: "McDonald's is everywhere," says Tony Bradley in PC World, so this is a godsend for people who don't want to pay $2.95 to go online during a quick pit stop. Now "travelers who are hungry and looking for a quick meal will choose McDonald's because they can also jump online to check traffic conditions, news headlines, or sports scores at the same time." It's a wonder McDonald's didn't think of this sooner.
"McDonald's free Wi-Fi a no-brainer win-win"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- Sorry, we will not all be having sex with robots in the future
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
Why is Obama still smoking?
- These two studies should be a wake-up call to natural-childbirth extremists
Subscribe to the Week